An Interview with
Craig Rowe, President of WhyPark, LLC
By Derek Iwasiuk
May 07, 2008
Would you tell us a few words about yourself and your professional background? How long have you been working in the domain industry?
I’m the president and founder of WhyPark. I’ve been involved in web services, content sites and web development since late 1997. Over the years, I’ve developed and sold a number of sites and applications, but I’d have to say that WhyPark has been the most interesting and exciting business to date. We’ve been online with WhyPark for just over 2 years now. My education is more on the business side of things with an undergrad in International Business and an MBA.
Launched in 2006, WhyPark has grown from a simple domain services site into a complex content solution provider that hosts over 41 000 domains. How did you manage to achieve this significant progress for such a short period?
It’s mostly been based on positive feedback from customers and word of mouth. We’ve done some advertising, but the growth has really come from within the customer base. I think we’re in a good position right now as more and more domainers, professional and part-time, are looking for alternatives to domain parking. We fill a fairly large market where customers own domains that don’t really see huge type-in traffic or even expired traffic, but want to start doing something more with their domains. With WhyPark, you can really start developing momentum to a domain name by generating new traffic and adding value that would otherwise not be there.
Recently WhyPark announced it has established a new strategic partnership with one of its clients. This resulted in an enhancement project that is already underway. Please, give us more details about this partnership and the ongoing project.
We recently closed on an angel investment in mid-April, which again came from within our customer base. A large part of those funds are being allocated to development. We’ve already started on our largest development project to date. The project should take about 4-5 months and will result in a large number of new services and enhancements. While I can’t go into too much detail until it’s live, it focuses on developing more search engine and repeat visits, offering new managed services on behalf of our customers and enhancements to our integrated advertising solution. We’re looking to continue offering innovative means for domainers to get the most out of their domain names. There are plenty of companies already handling landing page optimization. Our new development is really focused on adding more value and new targeted traffic to a domain name. The new enhancements will help our customers realize those goals.
The demand for a profitable alternative to traditional domain parking is on the rise. How does WhyPark respond to this trend?
We’re excited to be in this space and our customers provide us with great feedback on what they’re looking for. There’s a whole lot of the same in this industry, so we’re trying to really offer something that users can stand behind and see is constantly evolving. Every month, we’re adding new features to make our customers more money or help them further customize their sites. There are some great parking companies out there already and they do their job well. We’re just seeing so many people who are unhappy with parking and are looking for alternatives. We’re certainly happy to fill that void.
How does your complete suite of services help your customers to generate revenue and add value to their domain portfolios?
At the most basic level, a domain owner can enter their domain name and a few customization fields like keywords, titles, categories, etc and instantly have a focused, full-text content site online. We offer a variety of template customization options, the ability to add full, unique pages, monetization options (use your own third party ad code or our integrated ads) and webmaster tools such an XML sitemap with each site. As we bring in new content daily, any matching content is automatically added to those sites when relevant. This allows a site to be constantly fresh and updated without any maintenance required. We’re signing new agreements with content networks to further expand our available full-text content.
As a fully functioning site, there are also advantages like being able to submit a site to web directories and work on other link building activities. This ties into the ability to start generating organic search engine traffic and build some momentum behind a domain. A lot of domains are bought and sold due to traffic alone. Many domains do not have existing traffic, so we can really help add value by developing or increasing the traffic, which in turn will create greater value and allow the domain owner to sell at a higher price, or simply start generating revenue that wasn’t previously there.
What makes WhyPark different from the other companies in the industry?
Parking companies focus strictly on a one-time revenue event; getting someone to click on an ad and leave the site, likely to never return. It’s short-sighted and ultimately the traffic will continue to degrade. It’s like trying to run a business that has no repeat customers, most of which will fail. It’s always more expensive to constantly try to get a new pool of customers, rather than market to an existing user base. On WhyPark sites, our focus is to develop and retain visitors for long-term success. While you may see a reduced click-through rate on a site that offers something more than ads, you’ll make up for it through repeat visitors and the ability to build a sustainable visitor base. You can ultimately earn more by getting a larger amount of revenue on a per-customer basis.
There seems to be an increasing uneasiness or lack of trust in advertising on parking platforms too, whether it’s valid or not. Google recently offered the option to opt out of running AdWords campaigns on parked domains, which is likely due to customer feedback. That sends a strong signal and tells AdWords customers not familiar with domain parking that there must be a reason they allow an opt out. Advertisers are looking for more than a click that originated from a visitor where the options were to click on an ad or use the back button. WhyPark matches relevant content with a domain name, so visitors to a WhyPark site are almost being pre-qualified as interested in the theme of the site. As many visitors arrive to a domain through organic search, there’s even greater value to an advertiser since there’s very clear intent and a behavior that’s different than direct navigation users.
What does WhyPark do to retain its existing customer base and how would you recommend the company to potential clients?
The number one thing we do is listen to our customers. Our development is driven by this feedback. One feature we have in our control panel is the ability for our customers to submit new suggestions and have other customers vote it up to the top, similar to the way a Digg article is promoted. We often solicit direct feedback to continue improving. The reason we’ve been a success is that there was and still is a large group of people looking for something that didn’t yet exist. We’re listening to that and improving our product based on that need. We also have great retention rates based on users seeing that our platform is working for them.
What are your ambitions and plans for the future development of WhyPark? What eventual obstacles do you anticipate?
We have some pretty ambitious plans for WhyPark to really take it where it is today and expand on it. We’ll be offering a lot of services to our customer base to help them further increase the traffic to their sites and build something more valuable. One obstacle we face in mass development is always providing a unique experience for search engines and users. We’re building a lot of new methods into this current development project to enhance the user experience and make every domain more unique, even when common themes or keywords are shared. Since we provide fully functional sites, it really opens up a lot more opportunity in the types of partnerships and monetization we can get into as well. We’ll be leaning into those partnerships in the coming months to deliver greater value to our customers and again provide innovative ways to monetize a domain.
How do you see the development of Domain Name industry in the near and far future and what will be the WhyPark’s role and contribution in it?
I think the industry really needs to adapt and innovate. What worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. As users are becoming more and more sophisticated in how they find information and shop online, whether it is through search, social networks, blogs, etc, the “direct navigation user” is going to be a dying breed. Advertisers, search engines and visitors want a good user experience online, plain and simple. I think most people would agree that a landing page isn’t a great user experience; it’s just the point in between the user’s intent on finding the information they were seeking and the final destination. At WhyPark, we’re looking to build domains as that final destination where the user finds what they were looking for, rather than being the middle man that everyone wants to cut out. I hope that WhyPark will play an important role in showing that there are additional opportunities for domains outside of parking.
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